Replacing your water heater is an aggravating process. It's costly as well as disruptive to your home life. You want to avoid replacement if possible, but sometimes it's absolutely necessary. Otherwise, you run the risk of unknowingly drinking contaminated water. Here are five signs that your water heater needs replacing.

Rusty Water

When your water looks rusty, it's more than just disgusting in appearance. It's also unsafe. You should stop drinking it immediately. Also, have a professional look at the unit. They'll determine whether your water heater suffers from internal or external rust. If it's internal, you may need to replace the entire unit, depending on the maintenance person's recommendation.

Planned Obsolescence

Every appliance in your home will break down over time. Each one has an established life cycle, and your water heater is no different. You'll want to know the manufacturing date of your device as well as the average lifespan of the unit.

This information isn't easy to discover. Your device won't have an exact date but rather a code that includes numbers and letters. Check your manufacturer to learn the specific way they date their products. Then, decipher the age of your unit. If your device is more than a decade old, it's already ready for replacing. If not, note when it'll turn 10 so that you can pay for its replacement.

Loud Is Never Good

Properly functioning devices run quietly. Otherwise, nobody would ever buy them. If you're near your water heater and notice that it's loud, that's a warning sign. The likely culprit is hardened sediment inside the unit. These by-products of a normally functioning water heater pile up over time. They also harden, thereby becoming firm clumps within the appliance. They bang around and create noise. You may be able to clean the unit to salvage operation for a while longer. The sediment does damage inside the unit, though. Its presence reduces the overall lifespan, forcing a replacement.

Water in the Wrong Place

Your water heater doesn't drip water when functioning properly. If you notice pools of it around the appliance, the device has a leakage problem. Smaller exterior leaks are fixable, especially by highly qualified repair professionals. When the fracture occurs inside the unit, however, it has become dangerous to operate, and you'll need to replace it. But before taking that step, tighten all the connecting pipes. This tactic will establish whether the leak is internal or external.

Repeated Safety Issues

Take note of the number of maintenance issues you perform on your unit. Pay particular attention to safety features such as the pressure valve. Also note if the heating element or pilot light requires replacement multiple times. All of these problems indicate overriding manufacturing issues with the device. If multiple parts of the unit fail more than once, you're throwing away money repairing a clunker. It's time to cut your losses and buy a new, safe water heater instead.

Deciding whether you need a new water heater isn't that difficult. Simply pay attention to the device, noting any of the issues above. If it seems broken, it probably is. You should call in a maintenance person to get a second opinion, though.

What's worse than a hot shower turning cold on a winter morning? Considering water costs money and energy to heat, it's only right that everyone in the household has equal access to hot water each morning.

1. Wrap Your Storage Tank

During colder months, a hot water heater's storage tank will lose heat with cool air surrounding it, triggering the heating element to work harder at keeping the water hot. You can buy a thermal blanket from a home supply store. The blanket will help contain the tank's heat and decrease wasted energy.

2. Reduce the Water Heater's Thermostat

Check your water heater's thermostat setting. You might find the temperature set at 130 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. Lowering it to 120 degrees will save considerably. For every 10-degree drop, you will reduce your utility bill by three to five percent.

3. Shorter Showers and No Baths

Long showers and baths consume copious amounts of hot water. When hot water is at a premium, the solution is simple – no baths and take quicker showers.

4. Fix Leaky Faucets

A leaking faucet is throwing money down the drain. A hot water tap leaking 30 drops a minute wastes 84 gallons in a month, equaling 18 kilowatt hours (kWh). If that doesn't catch your attention, a faucet leaking two drops a second, or 120 a minute, is expending 74 kWh as 337 gallons of heated water go unused.

5. Reduce the Showerhead Flow Rate

You can replace your current showerhead with a low-flow version, which decreases the amount of hot water used in the shower. Showerheads predating 1992 can have flow rates as high as 5.5 gallons per minute. Federal regulations now cap showerheads at 2.5 gallons per minute, though you can find even lower rates. You may notice a small decrease in water pressure, but it doesn't limit you from getting the job done as you can save anywhere from 25 to 60 percent on your annual utility bill.

6. Wash Dishes Wisely

There is a common misperception that washing dishes by hand saves water and energy over using a dishwasher. Running a full dishwasher is the most energy-efficient method for cleaning dishes. Save hand washing for only those items that cannot go in the dishwasher.

7. Buy a Dishwasher With a Booster Heater

Since dishwashers work best when using water heated to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, look for models with an internal booster heater. The booster acts as the dishwasher's own water heater so you can leave your household water heater thermostat at 120 degrees. Though more costly upfront, the savings from the booster will pay for itself in about one year.

8. Buy Energy Star Certified Appliances

When you shop for new appliances like a dishwasher or water heaters, look for Energy Star qualified products. An Energy Star qualified dishwasher uses 31 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than a non-qualified counterpart. Similarly, an Energy Star qualified clothes washer uses four times less water than a washer built before 1999.

With some creative thinking and investigating, you may find even more opportunities to save hot water that are unique to your home.

When it comes to shopping for residential water heaters, we live in a time of several choices. For instance, you can go with a traditional storage tank model or a tankless design, and then decide what energy source will heat the water.

Traditional Tank

Traditional storage tank heaters are most common in older homes. They come in varying capacities to suit the size of your home, most commonly ranging 30–60 gallons. The design and function are straightforward – water fills the tank and a heating element warms the water to a specified temperature set on a thermostat and maintains that temperature. Energy comes from electricity or gas.

Purchase and installation runs the cheapest of the various options starting in the low hundreds and topping out around $1,000. Tanks tend to last seven to 10 years.

On-Demand or Tankless

These wall mounted units are more expensive to buy and install upfront, starting around $1,000, but save on energy usage and cut down your utility bills. According to Energy.gov, demand heaters putting out 41 gallons or less in a day save 24–34 percent energy versus a tank heater, and are 8–14 percent more efficient in water capacities up to 86 gallons.

Tankless heaters function by only heating water when demanded, there is no hot water storage. They are most efficient for households with low demand for hot water, meaning a large family all showering at the same time of day will risk cold showers at times.

Longevity of demand heaters is 20 years and longer when properly maintained. Repairs are affordable and replacement parts are easy to come by. This option is ideal when you plan to stay in your home for the long-term as the energy savings will recoup the upfront investment in eight or so years.

Point of Use

Unlike a tankless heater installed at the water's point of entry to a home, point of use heaters work in a specific place. The energy savings is beneficial in that there is no water sitting in pipes losing heat between hot water uses, and other water outlets have no impact on this heater option. Point of use is not ideal for a full home, rather, they serve more specialize needs, like a small structure on your property that requires regular hot water access.

Other Power Sources

An electric heat pump option is available, similar to those used for home heating and cooling. The heat pump's coil exchanges outdoor air temperature with refrigerant fluid to heat the water. A storage tank holds the water and operates as a traditional tank system would. These work best in hotter climates where they are up to five times more energy-efficient than using a traditional power source.

Solar heaters use a process similar to the electric heat pump in transferring heat to stored water, or use a direct circulation method in which water passes through the solar collectors for heat. In direct circulation, water transfers either by pump or gravity to the storage tank. Installation cost is high, so look into local and state rebate programs for solar energy.

Your water heater is one of the most important appliances in your home. Without it, you'll never take a hot shower or bath again, your dishwasher won't be effective, and you'll always wash your laundry in cold water. It's critical that you understand why. Here's a guide to explain how water heaters work.

Piping Hot

Water doesn't magically appear in your faucet. A series of connecting pipes runs through your home's foundation. Naturally, the water filtering through these pipes is cool to the touch, and that's especially true in the winter. Your water heater is a central unit where your pipes transport the water. Their goal is to take the water to a heating station before final delivery to the faucet.

Sum of Its Parts

Numerous types of water heaters exist. Their primary purpose is the same, though. Each one receives the water coming into the home, raises the core temperature enough to satisfy the owner, and passes it to the water delivery devices in your home such as your showers, sinks, and toilets.

The key part of the process is obviously heating the water. The appliance operates as a receptacle at first. All forms of water heaters include some sort of tubing whose goal is to receive outside water and transfer it to the heating part of the device. Generally, that's in the bottom of the unit. So, the tubing runs from the outside exterior of the water heater down to its base.

Safety First

The unit also includes a shut-off valve to prevent overflow. The storage part of your water heater receives the cool water. Most standard devices hold between 40 and 60 gallons of water in this tank. To avoid combustion issues, the unit includes a pressure relief valve. It directs the flow of excess pressure out of the device. As such, it's the most important safety measure in the water heater.

Another safety feature in the device is the drain valve, which helps in a variety of situations. Occasionally, the unit requires draining due to sediment build-up over time. Because the heating element has a shorter lifespan than the water heater itself, the heating element may require replacement before the water heater. Finally, an owner may need to move the water heater at some point. Any of these eventualities would require usage of the drain value for safety purposes.

Heating the Water

Once the water is in the appliance, all it requires is heating. The heating element performs this duty. It raises the core temperature of the water inside the device. Generally, the range is 120 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 49 to 82 degrees Celsius. The homeowner will have some control over this temperature thanks to device controls. The most important concern is to prevent unintentional scalding by setting the temperature too high.

The process itself is simple. The heating mechanism recognizes the activation of the dip tube. With new water in the system, the heating element activates. An internal thermometer measures the core temperature. It deactivates once the water reaches the expected temperature. At that point, the storage tank is full of water resting at the proper warmth.

As you can see, the water heater has many parts. When they work together correctly, your entire home will enjoy hot water safely and conveniently.

Summer a gorgeous season of traveling, outdoor adventures, and fun with family and friends. If you're planning on leaving home for a long weekend or an extended vacation, it's a good idea to do some water heater maintenance before you go.

By ensuring your water heater is functioning properly, you'll have peace of mind while you're enjoying your lovely summer getaway. Here are a few tips for making sure your water heater is running efficiently and safely while you're away.

Lower the Thermostat

If you won't be home for several days and you won't be having a house sitter staying at your residence, it's a good idea to lower the thermostat on your water heater. Some water heaters even have a Vacation Mode, which sets your water temperature at a simple maintenance mode. Your water heater will still run and continue to draw power, but it won't work nearly as hard and will save you energy while you're away.

Drain the Plumbing

If you plan to be gone for a week or more, consider draining your plumbing. By flushing your water heater system and your household plumbing, you'll ensure that there is no stagnant water left sitting around or under your house. Draining your plumbing will drain your water heater, toilets, and pipes.

You'll be protected from leaks and won't come home to a waterlogged floor. Draining your plumbing will also protect your water heater from building up too much pressure and exploding. When you return home, you'll need to refill your water heater system. Some plumbing professionals also recommend flushing the system once more after you arrive home, to get rid of any debris or sediment that may have accumulated while you were away.

Turn Off Your Water

To protect your water heater and your home from all possible unwanted scenarios, it's a good idea to turn off the water to your whole house. By doing this, you won't have to worry about your water heater overflowing or becoming overpressurized. You can either leave your water heater on or drain it completely. Turning off your whole home's water supply will also protect against leaks and other possible problems that could arise while you're away.

Schedule an Inspection

If you plan to be gone for a few weeks or longer, now may be time to schedule your annual inspection. Though most people opt to have their system inspected every two to three years, it's highly recommended that you get your water heater system inspected every year. Ideally, have your inspection completed a few days before you leave for vacation. If your system needs repairs, you'll have time to fix them before you leave so you know that everything is safe while you're away.

To get the most out of your summer vacation, make sure that nothing is distracting you from the good times. Take care of your home's water heater system and prevent any leaks or floods with these easy steps. Then you'll be all set to relax and enjoy the gorgeous weather and great company.

Your water heater is one of the largest energy drains in your home, accounting for between 14 and 18 percent of average household power bills. So if your bills are soaring, your water heater may be to blame. However, help is on its way. These simple fixes can make your water heater operate more efficiently to lower your energy bills and minimize your carbon footprint.

Lower the Tank's Thermostat

Reducing your tank's thermostat by just 10 degrees will shave 3 to 5 percent off your energy bill. Most water heaters are preset to 140 degrees, but the Energy Department suggests this is far too hot. It says 120 degrees should be suitable for most households. This is still warm enough to reduce mineral build-up in your tank and pipes, but much more energy efficient and safer for your family.

Measuring the temperature of the hot water in the faucet furthest from the water heater with a thermometer will give you a more accurate reading than your tank's thermostat. Cut the power to your water heater before using your reading to adjust the tank's thermostat to a true 120 degrees. Recheck the water's temperature after two hours or more to ensure it's running to your desired temp.

Remove Sediment and Minerals From Your Tank

Sediment and minerals, including calcium and lime, accumulate in your water tank over time, making the unit work harder and less efficiently. You can remove these particles by regularly draining a gallon of water from your tank. If you have hard or acidic water in your area, you should drain the water every three months. If your water is purer, you might only need to drain your water every six months or yearly. The savings you'll see will depend on the quality of your water, but could be substantial.

Insulate Your Water Heater

Do the sides or top of your water heater feel very warm to the touch? That means your water heater is losing heat or energy. Insulating your water tank could lower standby heat losses by between 25 and 45 percent and water heating costs by between 4 and 9 percent, saving you between $20 and $45 every year. Home improvement stores sell wrapping made specifically for water heaters to solve this problem, but you can also DIY with household items. Simply wrap your unit in a thick blanket, some bubble wrap, or some household insulation. Duct tape will hold your insulating layer in place.

For your own safety, remember to cut the power to your water heater before insulating it. You can safely wrap the sides of a gas water heater, but keep the top clear, as heat being exhausted could make the insulation catch fire. Since electric water heaters have no exhaust, you can safely cover the top and sides. Remember to keep electrical components and water heater controls clear for easy access.

Making your water heater more energy efficient is good for the planet and your bank balance. Perform these tasks regularly to keep your water heater operating efficiently.

A malfunctioning or inadequate water heater isn't just inconvenient — it's also a drain on your finances. When you need a new water heater, it's important to decide between tank and tankless models before you start comparing brands. Understanding your home and your specific needs can help you make this decision.

Tankless Water Heaters: Hot Water On Demand

The tankless water heater is a relatively new option — at least in the United States — that offers considerable benefits for homeowners. It's an on-demand water heater that doesn't produce hot water until you turn on a faucet or run an appliance that uses hot water, such as your dishwasher or clothes washer. There is no tank for storing already-heated water.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, homeowners with gas-powered tankless water heaters save an average of about $108 every year after they switch from tank models. While tankless water heaters cost more, their total cost of ownership can prove lower than that of a tank version, especially when you consider that tankless models last longer.

You might also prefer a tankless hot water heater because you won't run out of hot water when your usage depletes a tank. Big families, in particular, benefit from these models. They are more compact because of the lack of a tank, as well, so they work well in smaller homes where every square foot matters.

Tank Water Heaters: Tried and True

While tankless water heaters offer considerable advantages, you shouldn't necessarily discount tank models. If you're worried about the up-front cost, for instance, a tank might work better for your budget. Bob Vila reports that tank water heaters cost between $450 and $750 (versus a range of $800 to $1,150 for tankless models).

Tank water heaters also cost less to install. They typically don't require any rewiring or reconfiguring of your home's infrastructure, so the installation process won't take as much time. If you have a larger house, you might need a larger model that draws more power than your home's current electrical system can handle. In this case, you'll need to have the electrical work done first.

However, tank heaters sometimes produce rusty water after they've been in operation for several years or when they're turned off for long periods of time. The extra mineral content in your water might not prove dangerous, but it could impact the taste and quality of your water.

Choosing a Water Heater

You have several decisions to make when you need a new water heater. In addition to the tank-versus-tankless debate, you'll also have to choose between gas and electric water heaters. It's essential to decide what size heater is suitable for your home, as well as whether there are any installation issues to address before you buy one.

Consulting with an experienced water heater expert is the best course of action. An expert can provide you with personalized guidance based on the number of people who live in your house, the size of your home, and other important factors. From there, you can select a model that suits your needs and budget.

Would you like to save some money while reducing the carbon pollution in your home? The answer is obviously yes. That's why so many homeowners explore the possibility of adding insulation to their major appliances. One of the most important ones is your water heater, and here's a guide to insulating it to improve energy efficiency.

The Why of It

As water heaters age, they begin to lose integrity. They'll demonstrate their depreciation by losing effectiveness. You'll notice this each month when you receive your utility bill. By adding insulation, you'll earn back enough money in utility bill savings to counteract the cost of the materials used. The United States Department of Energy suggests that you can save as much as $45 annually by adding insulation. They also estimate that it's a 90-minute procedure. So, that little time can save you $450 over a decade (minus the cost of materials).

By adding insulation, you'll also reduce your carbon footprint. The only concern is that you must add insulation in a way that you don't block any of the important safety outputs on the water heat. You should consider hiring a professional for this task as a safety measure.

Pre-Install Tips

Assuming that you're a skilled DIY enthusiast, you can do this procedure yourself. The first thing you must do is find the manual for your water heater. Check it to make certain that it's okay to insulate your unit. Some manuals explicitly state not to do so. Also, verify that your water heater isn't leaking. If it is, you'll want a professional to do the job instead.

Step two is to clean your appliance, particularly the top of the unit. That's where most of the tape will go, and it won't stick on a dirty surface. You'll need to buy a water heater insulation kit for your unit as well. Your utility company may sell these items for less than a home improvement store. Alternately, they might offer a rebate for using such products to improve your energy efficiency.

How to Install Insulation

Measure the entirety of your water heater, adding three inches to the width to allow for the new materials. If your measurement is too short, you'll have to jam the insulation, reducing its effectiveness. Roll the blanket on a flat surface and mark the measurements you just took on the padding. Cut at the proper marks to create the appropriately sized insulation blanket for your water heater.

Determine the edge of your blanket that will stand vertically against the tank. Cut a flap in it away from the plastic cover. Now perform the actual wrap to verify that your measurements are correct. If it doesn't, make the appropriate adjustments. Presuming the blanket fits, use your hand to find where the controls are. Cut another flap in the padding there. Tape the padding to the heater and cut a cap for the top of the heater. Then, insulate the connecting pipe from your water heater. Tape both of them, and you're done!

As you can see, insulating your water heater isn't difficult. Simply follow this guide and you'll enjoy cheaper utility bills and a more energy-efficient home.

Despite the fact that the EnergyGuide label debuted in 1980, many homeowners do not know how to correctly read one. While you can always consult a water heater expert to understand what the numbers and symbols mean, it's often better to learn how to read one yourself.

Recognizing the Label

The EnergyGuide label is always a bright yellow color and has a rectangular shape. You'll note the EnergyGuide logo at the top of the label, featuring an arrow that extends downward from the stem of the Y. All of the printing on the label is in black, so you should be able to clearly read the information against the yellow background.

Make and Model Identification

Below and to the right of the EnergyGuide label, you'll find data about the specific make and model of the appliance. In most cases, you'll see the name of the manufacturer and the model number. According to electrician Dave Donovan, this part of the label will also include the name of the appliance, such as water heater, washer, or refrigerator.

Features and Specifications

Directly opposite the make and model, you'll find a list of features and specifications about the appliance, such as the capacity. For instance, on a tank water heater, you might see the number of gallons the tank can hold. Other specifications could include temperature ranges, safety features, and conveniences.

For a tank water heater, this section of the sticker might offer first-hour ratings for the number of gallons it can hold. This refers to the performance the heater will deliver during the first hour after its tank reaches full capacity.

Cost and Comparison

At the center of the EnergyGuide label, you'll find the estimated annual cost of running the appliance as well as its performance rating compared to other similar models. Below that, you'll see a box that tells you how much energy (in therms, or British thermal units) the appliance will consume annually. Appliances other than water heaters might have their energy consumption calculated in kilowatt hours (kWh).

The comparison chart can help you evaluate similar models side-by-side. If you're not sure which one will best serve your needs, it's possible that the more efficient version offers the best solution for your home.

Cost of Fuel

At the very bottom of the EnergyGuide label, you'll find the average cost of fuel. This is calculated nationally, so the costs in your state and town might vary slightly from this number. However, it should give you a fairly accurate idea of how much every therm of fuel will cost as you run your new water heater.

Buying a Water Heater

Now that you know how to read the EnergyGuide label, you can make more informed choices when you purchase water heaters and other appliances. Just remember that the EnergyGuide isn't the only consideration. You'll also want to review each appliance's features, capacities, and prices so you get exactly what you want. A professional can help you compare models and choose one that's right for your home.

In selecting a water heater for your home, size plays a critical factor. You do not want to select a heater that will leave most of your family showering in the cold, nor do you want to waste energy heating more water than your household needs on a given day.

Traditional Water Heaters

Selecting a traditional tank heater starts with storage volume. A small tank that holds 50–60 gallons is ideal for one or two people in the household, a medium tank of 80 gallons works for three to four people, and a large tank for more than four people.

Calculate Your First Hour Rating

Your home's first hour rating (FHR) represents the busiest time of day for hot water use, which is typically for morning showers. A simple calculation determines FHR by assigning 12 gallons per person. Count the number of bedrooms in the home and add one. For this example, a three-bedroom home gives us four people, and multiply that by 12 gallons. The answer is 48 gallons, or a minimum FHR of 48 for this home. Look for the FHR number on the yellow Energy Guide sticker and make sure it's the same or higher.

Find the Highest Energy Factor

Next, you want to find the heater with the highest energy factor (EF) rating associated with your minimum FHR number. The higher the EF rating, the more energy-efficient the water heater will be, which means saving more money on utilities.

Tankless Water Heaters

If you are shopping for a tankless or demand-type water heater, you need to calculate the flow rate and temperature rise to meet your home's needs.

Determine Flow Rate

Start by listing all of the hot water outlets in your home, and add up their individual flow rates. If you have three faucets each with a flow rate of 0.75 gallons per minute and one shower head that puts out 3 gallons per minute, the sum is 5.25 gallons per minute. This number is the household's minimum required flow rate for a tankless heater.

Figure the Temperature Rise

Unless you know the water temperature at your home's point of entry, use 50 degrees Fahrenheit as your baseline. The temperature rise is the difference between the baseline and the desired heated temperature. In most cases, your target temperature will be 120 degrees Fahrenheit meaning a 70 degree temperature rise. However, if you have a dishwasher that does not contain its own heating element, the tankless heater would be set for 140 degrees Fahrenheit, a 90 degree rise.

Consider the Energy Source

Tankless water heaters are typically rated for various inlet temperatures. On average, a gas-powered heater will handle a 70 degree rise at a 5 gallon per minute flow rate, while an electric heater will meet the 70 degree rise at a much slower 2 gallon flow rate. Low flow rates can diminish the hot water temperature that comes out of the most distant faucets or showers. Therefore, consider power source as part of the selection process.

It's always wise to consult with your contractor before making the purchase. This way you are buying the best water heater option available for your home.